Animal lover aims to save cat colony

By Diane Blakemore -

Jami Cannuli is working to humanely eradicate the feral cat population at a local fast food restaurant.

PILOT MOUNTAIN —One local woman is fighting to save lives in her hometown.

Feline lives.

With a soft spot for all animals, Jami Cannuli is determined to relocate a feral cat colony to prevent them from being euthanized by animal control.

Upon visiting a local fast food restaurant in town during the summer, Cannuli found what is often a common site at such establishments — a large number of cats in the parking lot around the dumpster. Concerned for their safety, she began asking questions.

Cannuli discovered that the colony has been there for years, with animal control trapping cats from the colony on a regular basis, and killing them because they are not adoptable as house pets. “They are wild,” said Cannuli, noting that they will not allow people to come near them. However, a few always evade the trappings, allowing the population to be re-established.

“Having the cats around the dumpster is a health code violation for the restaurant,” said Cannuli, noting that the manager has good cause for calling animal control. But the animal activist has a plan for a more humane and permanent solution.

Cannuli’s plan is to trap all the cats, have them all spayed or neutered, and relocate them to her farm where she is creating a cat sanctuary. “I will not give up until they are all removed,” said Cannuli, adding that at last count the colony contained more than 30 cats, including ten kittens which may be adoptable.

Contacting local and national organizations including the Humane Society, SPCA, PETA, and Mayberry 4 Paws, Cannuli’s request for assistance was denied by all. Next she asked individuals to help and formed a small group.

The group has provided food for the colony, located traps to borrow, raised funds, and formed a relationship with a veterinary clinic which will provide low cost services. A member of Mayberry 4 Paws, Theresa Lyons, and a Mount Airy resident, Denita Riccio, have made the core of this group.

The trapping will be done over several days. According to Cannuli, the job will require one trap per cat. The humane catch and release traps will be baited with stinky fish. Each day the cats that are collected will be transported to the veterinary clinic in Christiansburg, Virginia, for treatment.

Cannuli is also working to establish a non-profit organization to oversee the cat sanctuary. The land contains a building to provide shelter, is fenced in to protect from coyotes, and is surrounded by 100 acres of undeveloped woodlands. “The cats will be isolated in the building for the first week to acclimate to their new surroundings,” said Cannuli.

Donations and yard sales have netted $250 so far. According to Cannuli, the cost for all the cats to be spayed or neutered is $1,000, adding that there are also expenses associated with transporting, and feeding the cats as well as forming a non-profit.

Time is running short, as animal control has agreed to delay their next trapping until Nov. 30. Cannuli hopes to have the entire population moved before then, stating, “I just want them to be safe.”

Anyone wishing to assist may reach Jami Cannuli at 336-353-0183 or

Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.

Jami Cannuli is working to humanely eradicate the feral cat population at a local fast food restaurant. Cannuli is working to humanely eradicate the feral cat population at a local fast food restaurant.

By Diane Blakemore

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